NLSC Trip Report

Superior Sailing in September

By Bob Whitley

As we head into the lake out of Port Superior in Pikes Bay on the Sea Ductress, a 36-foot 2000 Catalina with all the trimmings, it just takes a minute to raise the sails in a 15-knot wind. One crewmember said, "Where are we going?" Another replied, "Who cares let's catch the wind and go sailing!" That is precisely what we did. We found the wind and sailed and sailed and sailed.

Up the slot from Pikes Bay in the North Channel between Madeline Island, Basswood, Hermit, Stockton and out to Michigan Island. What a wind! Back and forth between Stockton and Michigan tacking and jibing, rocking and rolling, pulling in the main sheet, hauling in the jib, snacking and laughing, telling tales — it doesn't get any better than this!

The Sea Ductress has it all: radar, roller furling, roller main, GPS, auto helm, wind point, wind speed, speed thru the water, speed over the ground — "Would you like that in MPH or knots?" All this is mounted on a Nav Pod that would be the envy of the captain of the Enterprise.  You could get all six crewmembers on the bow at once for slow dancing and not even be bothered by the plow anchor and winch on the bow.

The next day we venture out toward Outer Island but the forecast turns sour: 35-knot winds this evening. Knowing from experience that Presque Isle Bay fills up early in questionable weather forecasts with winds from the NE, we play around in the neighborhood and move into a snug little spot early in the evening and bury the anchor in 18 feet of water with 20 feet of chain & 150' of rode. We're ready!

It didn't happen. Three hours later — no wind, calm water, clear sky, a beautiful evening under the stars. Never have they been so beautiful -- the Milky Way was in all its radiant glory.  The mast anchor lights of the other boats in the anchorage leave zigzag streaks across the bay like a small sleepy village in some far off place called paradise.

It's 10:AM on the third day; breakfast and clean-up are done. We pluck the anchor and pop the sails. We’re off on a close reach riding a 20-knot wind. Will dons another layer of clothing and we all decide that is a good idea. It is a click below cool this morning. As we head out into the lake, coffee and hot chocolate turn a windy, sunny September morn on Lake Superior into an exciting anticipation of another great day of sailing.

Hey Julie, just a little more aggressive turn of the wheel to get the bow through the wind and the crewmember on the wench can bring the jib sheet in without using the winch handle and no need to trim. That's it...just right...the perfect tack. All day long for all three days, we barely used the winch handle except for some ultra-fine tuning usually provided by Jeff. Nobody can trim a sail like a racing sailor. While at the wheel during a lull, I watch Jeff adjust the travel car on the main sail and hold the jib sheet and main sheet with his fingers, milking every breath of wind to keep this 36 foot boat moving for the next 20 minutes or so. Amazing...what a touch! We found the wind, tacked and we were off on a broad reach skipping along like a flat rock thrown across the lake. Five tacks and here we are...right in front of Pikes bay all the way from Stockton. Too early to go in so we tack and jibe, playing around between Bayfield and Port Superior, dodging the ferries, and playing the wind. We are thankful to be on this great lake at this moment in time as the experience of sailing on Superior in September begins to take its place in our memories.

I've never heard of a bad meal on Lake Superior and this trip lived up to the tradition. Great food, easy to prepare, clean-up was a snap and it was just plain ol' tooth pickin' good. Snacks galore; the great American diet of chocolate and salt. Thanks Julie and Karne. 

I think each sailor on board will remember this trip as the benchmark to judge all future sailing experiences. Experienced sailors, great winds, beautiful anchorages, a first class boat, tasty-no-hassle food, and, to go with all this, a group of people who simply love to sail, period.